During this week’s Democratic primary presidential debate, Senator Bernie Sanders called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “reactionary racist”. He declared Jerusalem’s treatment of Palestinians as “extremely unfairly”. He also dubbed the prime minister‘s coalition a “right-wing, dare I say, racist, government.” The crowd cheered to this comment during the town hall event hosted by CNN.
Sanders made the remark after inquiring about the criticism he endured from fellow Jews who believe he doesn’t support Israel. The same critics fear that Sanders would move the U.S. embassy in Israel back to Tel Aviv. In 2018, Trump decided to controversially move the embassy to Jerusalem, inciting fear and doubt.
“The answer is it’s something we would take into consideration,” said Sanders. “But here’s the point, I am very proud of being Jewish. I actually lived in Israel for some months. But what I happen to believe is that right now sadly, tragically in Israel through Bibi Netanyahu, you have a reactionary racist who is now running that country.”
Sanders feels that Netanyahu is responsible for deliberately causing the Palestinian people suffering while prioritizing the support of Israeli forces in a hypocritical manner. This is why he dubbed him ‘reactionary racist’.
“I happen to believe that what our foreign policy in the Middle East should be about is absolutely protecting the independence and security of Israel,” Sanders said. “But you cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people.”
“To answer your question,” added Sanders “That [a decision on the embassy] will come within the context of bringing nations together in the Middle East.”
Nevertheless, Sanders also defended his viewpoint: “I am not anti-Israel. But the fact of the matter is Netanyahu is a right-wing politician who I think is treating the Palestinian people extremely unfairly. What I believe is not radical. I just believe that the United States should deal with the Middle East on a level playing field basis.”
Some experts estimate that Sanders‘ position would erode the Israel–U.S. relationship, further rocking the proverbial boat. If Sanders wins the presidential election, he would be the first Jewish U.S. president in history.
Mike Bloomberg, the former New York City Mayor chimed in on the issue regarding the U.S. embassy: “Number one, you can’t move the embassy back. We should not have done it without getting something from the Israeli government. But it was done, and you’re gonna have to leave it there,” said Bloomberg. “Number two, the only solution here is a two-state solution. The Palestinians have to be accommodated.”
“The real problem is you have two groups of people here. Both of whom believe that God gave them the same piece of land. And the answer is obviously to split it up,” Bloomberg adds.
During the CNN town hall debate, Sanders explains he started voicing his opinion more on the U.S. foreign policy issues even after his 2016 presidential bid. At this time, he was faced with harsh criticism for failing to address global issues.
“Probably a few years ago I wouldn’t have been as involved as I recently have been,” Sanders said. “I think a little bit more about foreign policy issues than I previously did.”